Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Name That Gargoyle!

Today I’m picking up a subject I’ve left alone for a while: words and video games. My goal is to use the power of the internet to answer a little linguistic mystery that has puzzled me for a while.

A short video game history lesson: Back in the day, Capcom (the people who made Street Fighter) released a side-scrolling arcade game, Ghosts ’n Goblins, which featured a knight hopping through what essentially amounts to a tacky Halloween haunted house landscape. Being a coin-operated game, the head-bashingly difficult Ghosts ’n Goblins aimed to overwhelm the player with countless undead monsters, assuredly killing the knight and forcing the the player to dump quarter after after quarter into the machine in order to progress. Despite that, the game caught on and spawned a lot of sequels and spin-offs, including some that starred the original game’s first-level boss, a nasty red gargoyle. In the spin-offs, you could even play as the gargoyle, jumping around, doing typical gargoyle stuff. As it stands now, the gargoyle may have appeared as a playable character more often that the original knight protagonist has.

He used to look like this:


But advancing video game technology has allowed him to look like this:


Now the wordy part: In the American release of the first gargoyle-centric game, the character was called Firebrand. (Good gargoyle name!) But the character’s original, Japanese name was something that gets rendered in English as Red Arremer. (Confusing!) Now, both Japanese and American games use the latter name. (Feel ways about it!)

And, finally, the confusing part: For the life of me, I can’t figure out what this name means. I could mean nothing, sure, and it could be a Japanese word that just translates like something that looks like an English word. But given that it has the word red in it and the character itself is red, I’m willing to bet that the name is English, translated into Japanese and then reproduced back in English in a way that makes it unrecognizable. Is it some variation on ream? (Parallel thoughts: “Don’t get ruined by the word ream, childhood memories!” but also “Ha ha, ream.”) But the character doesn’t bore any holes or, you know, engage in buttplay, so I think the answer lies elsewhere. I know that translating between English and Japanese can mean the insertion of vowels in between the consonants and that whole fluidity with the letters “L” and “R,” but I can’t switch the letters around in any way that makes more sense in English. Reamle? Lemul? Lemur? Could it be Armor? Nothing. What the hell is Arremer supposed to mean?

So then, internet — language-keen and video game-savvy people who frequent this blog, I’m looking at you — can you make anything from this? There is a theory that the a possible way to find obscure information online is to simply post somewhere what you don’t know and let the answer come to you, and I’m willing to try put this tactic to gargoyle-related use.

In closing, three more word-related thoughts on this game series:
  • After Ghosts ’n Goblins came a sequel, Ghouls ’n Ghosts, but the alliteration stopped there, unforch, but I guess forcing the pattern would have resulted in games like Geists ’n Ghastly Things We Didn’t Put in the Last Game, so maybe it’s for the best.
  • The series’s Japanese name is Makaimura, which translates to “Demon World Village,” the last word of which sounds not only redundant but also oddly cute to me. Like, “Ooh! Scary place where demons come from! … But look! They’re churning butter!”
  • Yeah, the apostrophe looks wrong to me too. It should be Ghosts ’n’ Goblins, since both the “a” and “d” in and got contracted into oblivion.
  • Of course, the heroic knight from the original games is chasing after a damsel. Tragically, this game’s leading lady got stuck with the name Princess Prin-Prin, which is just embarrassing.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Nicole Kidman: Striving for the Middle

When I saw Batman Forever back in theaters, I left feeling a little annoyed — not as much as when I saw Batman & Robin, about which everything critical has already been written, but bothered still because the film invented a new love interest. The first movie had Vicki Vale, the second Selina Kyle, but the third had a Batlove who hadn’t previously existed in the comics: the Nicole Kidman character, Dr. Chase Meridian. I didn’t like that, and even as a kid I was bothered by her name. Seriously? Chase Meridian? She sounded like a bank or a watchmaking company or maybe a codename from a James Bond movie.


Well, her name still sucks and all, but today I found out it can be read as a pun. As Wikipedia explains it, Kidman’s character falls in love with both Bruce Wayne and Batman, and rather than settling for one or the other she tries to integrate the two halves of Batsy’s self into one. So, in a sense, she’s chasing the “meridian” of Bruce Wayne’s personality. Dr. Chase Meridian. A little on-the-nose, sure, but not so obvious that I got it right away. I mean, I saw the movie on opening day back in June of 1995 and it took me fifteen-and-a-half years to get it — and I had still had to have it pointed out to me.

So there’s that.

Oh and Rachel Dawes, by the way, means “I liked her better once they blew her up” in… some language… Oh, finish the joke yourself.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Family That Didn’t Know the Meaning of the Word “Cancelled”

I knew about the various Brady Bunch spin-offs, but I’d never seen the opening titles from The Brady Brides until today. And I wish I hadn’t.


It would be self-parody if it displayed the merest hint of self-awareness. There are no words. Only the image of me sitting here and pondering the sentence “This happened.” It actually makes the opening credits to the next spin-off in the series — the Thirtysomething-esque The Bradys — look better by comparison.


Though you have to question the logic in crediting not-the-Marcia, Leah “Bloodsport” Ayres before the five, non-fraudulent Brady children. Not to talk up The Bradys all that much. “Men with mustaches don’t run for office.” The hell?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Obscene Carrot

Ahem.


Taken from PCL LinkDump and reposted here because, honestly, no blog could ever be complete without this grotesque, pubic carrot.

Sexy plants, previously:

A Deep-Ass Groove (Or “Broke-Ass,” But in a Dignified Manner)

I guess I’ll just ride out the weekend on strange and wonderful words. For today, one that I just learned, that isn’t hard to pronounce, that means exactly what you think it might and that may well prove useful in various Craigslist postings.
rumpsprung (RUMP-sprung) — adjective: 1. (of furniture) having worn upholstery or collapsed springs as a result of overuse. 2. poorly dressed.
There you go: a very specific word that you’d nonetheless still have occasion to use. And it has rump right in there, which is actually how the thing you’re saying is rumpsprung got that way: from having a rump in there. As much as I like the five-, ten, and fifty-dollar words that you’d only ever need to know in the context of the GREs, the rare but simple (and butt-related) words that I enjoy most. You could actually use these and be understood by people listening to you, for one, and they prove that words don’t have to sound or look exotic in order to be special.

At least not outside-of-English exotic, though rumpsprung may only be familiar to speakers of certain types of English. No definitions for the word appear in the online Webster, American Heritage, Wiktionary or even Dictionary.com. Some Oxford dictionaries have rumpspring, however, and Wordnik also has it, though only with the definition “poorly dressed” and the vague note that this usage is “Southern.” I’d guess that the literal, furniture-related usage came first, and then connotations of general shabbiness expanded the definition to include people and their clothes as well.

However, I should also point out that this word came to my attention through a certain someone’s mother, who used to refer not only to the state of a garment but also to the presence of an ass groove: She had mentioned someone as wearing “an old, orange mink so rumpsprung that she looks like someone’s cook,” which easily ranks among the best-ever shorthand explanations for a person’s character.

Previous strange and wonderful words:
Word nerd? Subscribe to Back of the Cereal Box’s word-related posts by clicking here.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Vocabulary for the Triply Stuffed

Probably the last concept some of you would want to think about the morning after Thanksgiving, yet a timely new word nonetheless:
cherpumple (chur-PUM-pul) — noun: a pastry desert consisting of a layer of cherry pie, a layer of pumpkin pie and an a layer of apple pie.
Etymology not necessary, or so I’d like to think. It goes without saying that, at least verbally and seasonally, cherpumple is the dessert equivalent of turducken, that other Greek mythology monster of a dish that mashes three types of poultry into a single form. No, the apple component isn’t enclosed by the pumpkin component and the pumpkin not by the cherry, but you have to admit that the comparison still works. I learned about this fascinating, horrifying item on Fritinancy, a great blog for all things verbal, on which the item was actually described as being even more fattening: cherry layer inside white cake, apple layer inside yellow cake, pumpkin layer inside spice cake, with all three stories wrapped in cream cheese frosting.

There’s even a picture, courtesy of the blog This Is Why You’re Fat:


Both the recipe and the name seemed to have been invented by Charles Phoenix, a SoCal personality who I first learned about on Tharpe-Tharpe’s blog from his guided tours of downtown Los Angeles. He even released a video explaining the creation of this Frankencake, which he boasted to the Wall Street Journal “puts the kitsch in kitchen.”


As if that weren’t enough to process after your yearly late-November gorging, I’ll give you one more: Fritinancy revealed to me the existence of what is essentially turducken + 1, an even more intimidating entity known as turbaconducken.

Previous strange and wonderful words:
Word nerd? Subscribe to Back of the Cereal Box’s word-related posts by clicking here.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

It’s a (Sexy) Secret to Everybody

Not the least bit Thanksgiving-related, but worth posting anyway:


From Game & Graphics, but inspired by this post on this very blog.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Things I Saw Along Interstate Five Today

A list that Thanksgiving made possible:

Low-lying shrubs that I could have seen virtually anywhere else in the state

A lot of open space

A thousand shades of gray

Other annoyed drivers

Most of the least interesting parts of California

White spots that looked like snow but that I suspect were, in fact, blank spaces that God left undone simply because he got bored while designing this part of the world

Tangible despair, dripping from the branches of bare trees like some kind of exotic, toxic moss

A pungent fecal smell that, yes, I could actually see in the form of green-brown clouds rolling across the landscape

Eventually, an oppressive and enveloping darkness that I call The Void

Death himself, beckoning to me from a pomello stand

Monday, November 22, 2010

The English Language and Digestive Illness

A query about spelling: The plural of scarf is scarves, but the spelling doesn’t change when you’re talking about the verb scarf, meaning “to eat quickly.” You would say, “When my dog is hungry he scarfs down all his food,” not “scarves down all this food.” Why would the letter change only in the noun? Is it because the verb scarf is slang? Doesn’t the switch from “F” to “V” happen in order to make the word easier to pronounce? The similar sounding dwarf can pluralize to dwarves (though I think some people might use dwarfs), but it stays as dwarfs as a verb, as in “The new building dwarfs the ones around it.” But then again, morph stays the same — or would, perhaps if you were speaking about Power Rangers and counting transformations: “one morph, two morphs.” Does it stay the same because its “F” sound is represented with something other than the letter “F”? Or am I approaching this completely wrongheaded?

By the way, I arrived at this mystery by trying to figure out what the correct plural for barf would be, as in “one barf, two barfs.” Barves? I mean, I know it’s not, but I kind of wish it were barves.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Law & Foreshadowing

Remember the episode of Seinfeld on which Jerry and George sit in on auditions for Jerry, the failed show-within-the-successful show? Remember the actress who tries out for the part of Elaine and insults George by comparing to the waiting room of actors trying out for his role a “baldness convention”? Lo and behold — that was a younger and much more feminine-looking Mariska Hargitay, now super famous for starring on Law & Order: SVU.


Even weirder: The scene has her walking into the room with a poster of the original Law & Order cast visible over her shoulder.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Ghost in the Glass

I am so into this photograph.


And though I can reasonably explain away the horrible screaming face in the window pane, I still keep looking. (Via Tokyo Times.)

“Full of Shit,” But Stated Politely

A fruitful word of the week:
pruniferous (proo-NIF-er-us) — adjective: of a tree or shrub: bearing stone fruits.
The word, which I found on the New York Times’s Daily Lexeme, has fallen out of use, though historically it referred plants that grew plums, cherries, peaches, apricots and other fruit with a single, hard pit in the middle. Even the term stone fruit strikes me as strange, though. Despite having grown up in a part of California famous for this sort of produce, I only ever heard people call the thing in the middle a pit. I mean, that’s why the Beverly Hills, 90210 kids hung out at the Peach Pit and not the Peach Stone, right?

I think the word should make a comeback. If that happens with its old, agricultural definition, fine, but I’d personally like to see it become a more polite way to slam people, kind of in the style of how meretricious allows you to insult most women to their face without them realizing. (“Why Diane, you’re looking quite meretricious today!”) Etymologically, the word combines the Latin prunum, “plum,” and a form of the verb ferre, “to carry.” And while that makes sense for plum trees, it sounds a lot like the English idiom full of prunes, which you’d use to describe a person talking nonsense. Actually, that phrase works a lot like another, more popular one, full of shit, which describes a dishonest person. The connection between prunes and shit is well-known enough that I don’t think I need to explain how pruniferous could take on the sense of claptrap, jibber-jabber, and all those other great terms we use for words that don’t mean anything. Example: “Upon close inspection, the candidate’s speech proved to be occasionally misleading and wholly pruniferous.” By which I mean that the candidate is full of shit.

Things I wouldn’t have expected to write when I started this blog: This isn’t the first entry I’ve put up about prunes and plums. Last year, I looked up the history of the prune and plum to figure out which has meant, and whether buying dried plums was any different than buying prunes, and what the connection is between prunes and the verb to prune. (Short answers: More or less the same, not really, and no, even when you’re pruning a prune tree.)

Apparenlty, I am once again Professor Plum.


Previous strange and wonderful words:
Word nerd? Subscribe to Back of the Cereal Box’s word-related posts by clicking here.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Solid Potato Salad

Ignore the poor video quality and the nonsensical song lyrics. (What the hell does solid potato salad taste like, anyway?) Just give this video a chance and stick with the 40s-fantastic singers until they get to the contortion.


It takes something kitschy and gets surreal real fast — and then borders on horrifying.

(Via Holly’s Facebook.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Justice, Shadows, Italians and Other Abstract Nouns

I guess the theme for this week is “strange pop cultural connections I should have made with a certain Italian horror movie years ago.” This might seem like a strange theme to some people, but it’s pretty normal for me. In fact, I think it’s popped up several times before.

On Monday, I blogged about a certain actress Eva Robin’s, whose unique name spelling and she-male status had bypassed me each time I’d seen the Dario Argento film Tenebre. And here I had thought I knew everything there was to know about Tenebre. Not so, even yet. Somehow I missed that the film’s title theme was remade by Justice on the duo’s 2007 track, “Phantom” — a song I own and at one point listened to frequently without ever realizing how much of a debt it owed to a movie I like.

Here’s Justice’s “Phantom”:


And here’s the kickass theme to Tenebre:


The band that plays the Tenebre theme is Italian prog rock group Gobin, who still perform today. Argento featured the band in a number of his films, perhaps most memorably in Suspiria. I had reason to think of the band earlier this week because the trailer for the very gothic and unexpectedly exciting Jane Eyre adaptation by Cary Fukunaga. I swear: Never has Jane Eyre seemed so exciting.

Here’s the trailer:


And here’s the Suspiria theme that is featured in the trailer at about twenty-seven seconds in.


At this point, I should probably point out that this week doesn’t even mark the first time a Dario Argento film was unexpectedly referenced in something else I was enjoying. Comedian Drew Droege has been releasing this awesome videos parodying Chloe Sevign. The Halloween Hallowe’en video uses one of the backgrounds from Suspiria. Watch for it around the 1:10 mark.


So way to go Dario Argento, I guess.

Final note: Now there’s a post tag cluster I never expected to see.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bad Bouquet

Because everyone has their story to tell.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Word From the Depths of the Internet

(Spoiler: This post contains ass-paddling.)

Happy weekend. For today, a geeky-minded word-of-the-week:
weeaboo (WEE-ə-boo) — noun: a non Japanese person who favors Japanese culture over his or her own.
Being someone who likes video games and enjoys a significant chunk of what gets shoved under into the “geek culture” label, I’ve run into a few people who might be called weeaboos. Online, I should point out. These folks are indoorsy types, who only brave sunlight to cosplay or perhaps to read manga while sitting on the floor of chain bookstores. I noticed their activity once on IMDb, when I saw that the site lists video games in addition to movies and TV shows and was puzzled that someone had entered the bigger-name classic titles as Sūpā Mario Burazāzu and Sutorīto Faitā. These might be technically more correct in one sense, as they’re literal re-renderings of the Japanese characters that make up these video game titles, but in any other sense it’s ridiculous to insist on transliteration rather than just saying Super Mario Bros. or Street Fighter, especially when the original Japanese titles are supposed to be in English anyway. (That is, you would see Street Fighter on a Japanese game cartridge, not the Japanese characters for “street” and “fighter.”) The IMDb titles have since been fixed, so apparently enough people agreed with me.

But this idiocy, friends, was the work of weeaboos.

The website Know Your Meme explains the history of the term weeaboo. Before 2005, these people would have been called Wapanese — either “wannabe Japanese” or “white Japanese” — but thanks to that source of all things strange and fascinating, 4chan, the term was literally replaced with weeaboo in 2005 when a user hacked the site so that all instances of Wapanese were replaced with a nonsense word from a Perry Bible Fellowship comic.


The name stuck (though sadly the ass-paddling associations did not) and these dorks have been called weeaboos to the point that, according to Know Your Meme, it now gets used more often online than wapanese and the technical term, japanophile. The site also distinguishes weeaboo from otaku, a Japanese word that over there means “fan” or “excessive fan” but over here tends to refer specifically to anime nuts, manga fanatics, or people unnaturally obsessed with Japanese-produced video games. Whereas the otaku simply indulges in their hobby to an unhealthy extent, the weeaboo is the one who addresses you using the Japanese honorific while snacking from a bento box with chopsticks they had imported from Japan, because “they’re just better Japan,” but instead they call it Nippon because that’s what Japanese people call Japan.

I kind of wish equivalent words existed for people obsessed with English, Italian, Spanish or French culture — you know, aside from asshole.

Previous strange and wonderful words:
Word nerd? Subscribe to Back of the Cereal Box’s word-related posts by clicking here.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Karen Black Friday

We all know that blackface is not a socially acceptable type of performance, but how do you feel about Karen Blackface?


(Still from the acclaimed Betty Grable biopic Killer Fish.)

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Salvador Dali Walking an Anteater Up From the Subway

Sometimes my post titles are not at all misleading.


This should really be enough for you. It’s plenty for me. Happy Tuesday. (Via.)

Monday, November 08, 2010

An Open Letter to My Heavy-Footed Neighbor Upstairs

Dear sir,

It has come to my attention that you apparently keep to two important items on opposite sides of your apartment. I imagine that you need these two items — frequently, in rapid succession — in order to survive, and this and only this explains your constant, plodding treks from one side of your apartment to the other. May I please suggest that you perhaps move these two life-granting items to the same side of your apartment? I would like to enjoy my Hulu programs without straining to hear them over the arrhythmic thuds that serve as the soundtrack to your life.

Please,
Drew

Sunday, November 07, 2010

The Nouns of Young Girls

My pick for word of the week is acne-related.
acné excoriée des jeunes filles (ak-neh ecks-ko-ree-ay day joonz fee) — noun: a self-inflicted skin condition resulting from a person’s habit of picking at either real or imagined blemishes, ultimately worsening the quality of the skin.
Translated into English, the term means something like “the acne of young girls,” though the verb excorier is related to the English excoriate, meaning “to wear the skin of,” “to flay,” or “to denounce.” I love that this term exists and that it namechecks the kind of insecure girl who would stand in a mirror and press and stress their face in an effort to rid it of a single blackhead, only to spread the infection and cause a worse blemish than if they had simply done nothing.

But I chose acne excoriée des jeunes filles not only because it’s so wonderfully specific and evocative but also because the thing it describes can be metaphorically extended beyond the world of teens wracked by the horrors of puberty. Really, who can’t relate to the notion of a thing being made worse by virtue of it being fussed over — squeezed and prodded into an otherwise avoidable state of irritation?

Previous strange and wonderful words:
Word nerd? Subscribe to Back of the Cereal Box’s word-related posts by clicking here.